By Ty Butler
Unicoi County Prevention Coalition is supporting International Overdose Awareness Day by turning Erwin purple.
“We’re going to put purple windmills on the courthouse lawn to raise awareness for opiod, fentanyl and stimulant overdoses,” said UCPC director Christy Smith.
“We’ve also purchased purple lights for businesses and the courthouse to use,” she added.
The purple decorations have been used, on an international scale, to reinforce awareness for those impacted by substance abuse and drug overdoses.
For the past six years, Smith and her organization have fought to put the fight against substance abuse and overdoses at the forefront of Unicoi County public awareness.
“We as a community need to rally around these people and provide support,” Smith noted while also acknowledging that Unicoi County accounted for seven standalone overdoses in 2020 alone.
According to a Tennessee Department of Health Annual Overdose Report from 2020, 85% of overdoses in Unicoi County were a result of opioid consumption, while 71% of the fatalities, mutually exclusive or not, involved pain relievers.
Smith noted that drug overdoses can impact all walks of life.
“Overdoses stretch through the entire class system,” said Smith. “It’s not just the homeless person or low-income person, it can be anyone.”
Smith also unveiled plans of fostering discussions among different entities in the area.
“We are in the process of combining our meetings with the Unicoi County Health Council’s meetings and the Unicoi County Community Advisory Board’s meetings, to group into one big discussion,” she noted.
The meetings will discuss everything from cancer rates and education to diabetes and drug addiction.
“We believe that we can recruit more volunteers and members that way,” Smith said. “Being underneath that umbrella allows us to do a community wide need assessment into what we all need to focus on.”
Smith wishes to see more community members at the meetings, adding, “We don’t see as much involvement as when I was growing up here. Neighbors don’t talk to each other as much as they used to.”
In past discussions, UCPC has welcomed a number of neighboring organizations into the conversation, including the Village Behavioral Health, Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network, Mental Health Alliance and Frontier Health.
For more information on the Unicoi County Prevention Coalition, call (800) 889-9789. The non-profit also accepts donations.